Many within the sacred arts community turn to ritual and ceremony whenever difficulties are experienced. We also work with ritual and ceremony in other contexts as well – to mark seasons and important days or festivals for our holy ones, to celebrate successes and victories, to simply give thanks and gratitude. In all cases, we ask ourselves what kind of magic and miracle-making, what kind of ritual or ceremony, might adequately address the situation?
Not one thing is wrong with this approach, and I firmly believe that marking our difficulties and our successes with ritual is a wise thing to do. But we often miss one initial step that, although small, is of great use. It is the step of directing our magic making, our ritual intention, inward first.
Let’s use a concrete example to illustrate this point. Say that I have a relationship with someone I care deeply about, but the connection has been on the fritz lately. We cross words with one another, rub each other the wrong way, and offend each other with each attempt to “make it better”. I could decide to do some work to sweeten the relationship, so that we might be kinder to each other. Perhaps I create a sugar jar or I light a devotional candle for this purpose. Well and good. But before assembling my material magica, before thinking about what petition I want to write and what prayers I would like to say, I need to do one thing first. We are watching a lot of Star Wars in my house right now, so I am going to borrow the phrase from George Lucas – I need to search my heart.
Perhaps in this specific situation I have a long history of jealousy around this person. Maybe I feel like they always get the breaks while I am always stuck with hard work. Maybe I really love them, but I – in some small or not so small way – resent them. Can I perform a ritual or ceremony to create peace and harmony in the relationship without dealing with those feelings of jealousy and resentment? Sure. Will the work be effective? It might be effective – but only for awhile and to a certain extent. Will the work have long lasting and deep results if I have not dealt with my own internal state first? Not a chance.
I often tell my students and clients to do some serious soul-searching and “get their soul house in order”. It is an idea I encountered in the writings of Confucius, whose claim is that before one goes about telling others how to order their homes, one should make sure that their own home is in order. Or, as that old saying goes, when you point a finger there are three fingers pointing back at you. It is easy and tempting to reserve our ritual and ceremonies, and really all of our sacred arts practices, for dealing with external situations only. In the Miracle Tree Sessions we work with this concept throughout the year and the magic that is made as a result has much greater depth and staying power. What would happen if we actually directed some of our concentration and devotion towards our own internal state of affairs? More clarity, deeper wisdom, and much less wasted time.